What's the Next Hot Retail Concept?

Real estate development firm EDENS has selected four finalists for its annual Retail Challenge, a nation-wide student competition for the most compelling new retail concept. The announcement of the winner kicks off this year's smART: The Art of Retail conference.

Both the EDENS Retail Challenge and smART are devoted to incubating new ideas, sharing knowledge and identifying the next generation of industry thought leaders. This year's smART is being held at the Gansevoort Hotel on March 3-4.

"At EDENS we see a new retail equation emerging," says Jodie McLean, president and chief investment officer. "Today's most successful retailers blend irresistible goods or services, a sense of place, e-commerce, and new ways of engaging consumers through social accountancy, and community engagement.  The Challenge and smART help us bubble up new concepts and put a face on the industry's next generation."

The 2013 EDENS Retail Challenge winners are open for business: Follain, a curated selection of healthy, wholesome skincare and beauty products opened in Boston; and Artis, a premium, live-roast coffee concept featuring an educational, in-person coffee brewing experience opened in Berkeley, CA.

"This is more than an investment in a good idea or debating brick & mortar versus on-line shopping. These incredible students, and the bold ideas they've presented, help us answer the age-old question: What's Next?" McLean continues.

This year's challenge attracted 72 participants from 25 schools. After three rounds of competition and six months of reviews, mentoring and pitch polishing, four finalists have been selected:

Cote-Armour, a clothing line and artist collective inspired by the pulse and vibe of New York City's art, music and youth scene. The company's slogan, Gnarly Never Dies, reflects the Cote-Armour lifestyle – young and free, living for music festivals, creating art, and dreaming big. Students from Columbia University.

Pragma, a fashion retailer catering to on-the-go women with practical, high-quality clothing that can be worn to the office, out to dinner and on a business trip. The line features innovative, travel-friendly (iron-free) apparel that folds into a built-in, drawstring pouch, making it easy to stow and go. Students from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Joe Cuts, a mobile hair salon that brings the haircut directly to the busy college student through a mobile store and reservation app. Students from Babson College.

Kitschoppe helps expert do-it-yourselfers and uninitiated crafters design their projects before a communal backdrop. Kitschoppe seeks to provide the artistic and social outlet young people crave in budding urban metropolises. Students from Yale University.

The challenge
The EDENS Retail Challenge invites students from across the country to pitch original retail concepts to a panel of industry experts. Drawn from some of the country's top universities and graduate schools, the students are challenged to develop a comprehensive business plan — from initial vision to financials to launch strategy — for a compelling, persuasive retail concept.

The goal of the Challenge is transforming great new ideas into reality, so teams are mentored throughout the process and provided guidance on such aspects as financing, marketing, sourcing, technology or design.

This year's participating schools include Columbia University, Yale University, Harvard University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Babson College, Cornell University, The University of Georgia, Princeton University, Georgetown University, MIT, Howard University, University of South Carolina and University of Miami, among others.

The winner, who will be announced on the morning of March 3, 2014 in conjunction with smART, will receive a total of $13,000; second place will be awarded $8,000; and third and fourth place winners will receive $5,500 in addition to extensive mentoring in all aspects of their concept and business plan. 
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